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Mementos Mistake

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People — and particularly Americans — like stuff. Having lots of stuff seems to make us feel safe and secure. Or at least better than the Jones’ next door.

Some people like to bring home a little piece of every place they visit, for example. My husband’s aunt buys a local cuisine cook book on every trip she takes. Other people can’t take a summer vacation without schlepping back a suitcase full of swag — refrigerator magnets, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and even bottle openers for your key chain.

Still others are history buffs who collect items from one or more historical periods. Take all those deluded Southerners who collect Confederate artifacts, all the while raging about Southern nobility, so-called states rights, and the “war of Northern aggression.” You’d think the South actually fought for something good with all the fuss still made about General Lee and the burning of Atlanta. You want to remember the Confederate South? Try collecting a few shackles and slave ship manifests, mmmmkay?

I’m not a “stuff” person. Less is more in my book, so I make it a point not to collect much of anything, unless you count dust mites, dirty laundry, every high school, college, and graduate school essay I ever wrote, and IOUs for sex with the husband in exchange for a night out with the girls. [I get the night with the girls, he gets the IOU. Just to be clear.]

Maybe that’s why I can’t understand people who would take home a little piece of the 9/11 WTC and Pentagon wreckage. Or maybe I can’t understand it because it’s just so ghoulishly wrong.

Pop Quiz

Question: What does Donald Rumsfeld have that you don’t have?

Answer: A piece of the airplane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.

I know, it’s not fair. What if everyone wanted a piece of a mass murder weapon? Don’t you worry, my fellow Americans. It’s not really Rumsfeld’s, says a Pentagon spokesman:

“He doesn’t consider it his own,” Di Rita said, adding the piece is on display for the Pentagon. “We are mindful of the fact that if somebody has an evidentiary requirement to have this shard of metal, we will provide it to them.”

Well, that’s a relief. Rumsfeld doesn’t consider the piece of the airplane that murdered over 180 people his own. How righteous. And even though he has put his and all his office visitors’ grubby paw prints all over it, Rummy will be happy to return it any time if it’s needed for evidence, now that its evidentiary value has been reduced to ZERO.

Funny, I didn’t know it was okay to remove potential evidence from a crime scene as a souvenir. You think the LA police screwed up the evidence in the OJ Simpson case? Those bozos have nothing on our federal investigators. Nosireebob.

It’s Not Like They Need It Anymore

Believe it or not, the FBI claims that nothing prohibited investigators from taking things from the 9/11 sites. That’s right: the FBI says it wasn’t a crime for their agents to take items from a crime scene.

Feeling safer yet?

The bureau announced it was banning agents from taking items from crimes scenes, but no agents were being charged with crimes because the bureau did not have such a policy during the September 11 investigation.

I cannot believe the FBI had no policy prior to September 11, 2001 about the handling of items — even those deemed no longer needed as evidence — at a crime scene. That statement is just inconceivable on its face. Either someone is lying or the FBI has been playing us for fools for a very long time.

Hey, I think I’m on to something. The same FBI that decided to ignore an agent’s warnings about Arabs taking flying lessons and skipping the landing lessons also allowed agents to take home souvenirs from the 9/11 sites. And that they did, apparently in droves: some took home rubble, while others went for the bling-bling and snagged a Tiffany globe.

And some particularly heartless agents tore the patches off dead WTC security officers’ shirts as mementos. Yes, agents actually tore the patches off the shirts people were wearing when they were murdered. Besides being offensive and a huge personal violation — just because someone is dead doesn’t mean you can steal from him or her — it apparently never occurred to the specially trained investigators that DNA analysis could have returned those patches to the victims’ families.

I have an idea. The next time you hear about an FBI agent getting killed in the line of duty, head on down to the scene and grab yourself a piece of his or her shirt. Pinch a sock — the agent will never miss it! Or maybe snip a lock of hair while you’re at it. I watch “Six Feet Under.” Morticians can do wonders with dead people’s hair, so nobody will ever know.

Oh, and I know, when Rummy kicks the bucket — we all have to go some time, so I’m not wishing him anything but a long, healthy life as a private citizen — let’s hop on down to his office and take a few items from the wreckage of his tenure as Secretary of Defense. Don’t bother looking for the truth — it’s buried too deep. Just stick with the tangible, personal items and you’ll be fine.

Is Martha Doing Cell Calls?

I think I read somewhere that lying to federal investigators is a felony. It might have been in Martha Stewart Living, but I’m not sure.

So I suppose we should expect the FBI agent who ran the recovery effort at the landfill where the WTC wreckage was taken, Richard Marx, to be spending some time behind bars. Because it’s all about the lying and not the sex, right?

Marx has been accused of giving colleagues permission to take WTC items from the landfill. He may have lied when questioned about it and during a lie detector test, which “indicated that Marx was deceptive in his responses to all three questions.”

I do believe Martha Stewart is facing some jail time for “being deceptive” with federal investigators. What will happen to Mr. Marx?

Probably not much. My favorite part of the 9/11 souvenir story is the part where prosecutors will probably not charge a Minnesota contractor with stealing a fire truck door from the WTC rubble — not because he didn’t do it, but because FBI agents stole so much from the site that prosecutors will have to fend off the goose-and-gander defense.

Don’t you love that logic? The guy from Minnesota can’t be charged with a crime if the FBI agents were doing the same thing. Because, as we all now know, the FBI had no policy about what to do with stuff found at a crime scene. I guess it’s inconceivable that common sense would prevail — if you take something that’s not yours, it’s called stealing.

9/11: Never Forget

I completely understand the need to memorialize the people who died on 9/11 and to remember the devastation that the attacks wrought. I saw an exhibit of some of the WTC wreckage at South Station in Boston last summer. It was very moving and it brought back many of the emotions I had on that day. It was a real, tangible example of the devastation and loss of life, particularly since I knew someone on Flight 11.

And I also understand the emotional toll taken on the people who worked to clean up Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and the site of Flight 93’s crash. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to be there day after day. But I just can’t believe that trained FBI investigators would think it okay in the legal sense to remove any item from a crime scene, never mind in the preservation-of-evidence sense or in the respect-for-the-dead sense.

Any 9/11 artifacts not needed as evidence should be handled by an organization experienced in preserving historical artifacts. Personal items should be analyzed and returned to the families of the victims, if possible. Otherwise, the wreckage belongs to all Americans, not to those Americans who just so happened to be in a position to take them home when everyone else was still mourning.

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About bhw

  • It seems like every day there’s something new (and evil) coming out of the 911 disaster. Sometime soon, I hope, all the stuff reaches critical mass and the truth comes out.
    We truly need it.